The Village des Bories: an architectural masterpiece dating back to the Bronze Age

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Katerina Bulovska
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The Village des Bories is a historical site located at the entrance of Gordes, in the Vaucluse department of France. It consists of 28 dry stone structures, characteristic for the Neolithic and Bronze age.

The area was once officially known as  ‘Les Savournins’, while the huts were locally called ‘Les Cabanes’ and Galic huts.

The exact origin of the dwellings called bories is unknown, but similar constructions are noticed across the Mediterranean, southern France and other parts of the world. Because the technique of building has not changed since the Neolithic, it is difficult to say to which period they belong. According to some theories, they date back to the Bronze Age.

Others suggest, that the objects found on the site, date to the 15th century, while the pottery dates back to the 18th century. It is very likely that all the theories are correct and the village was inhabited and rebuilt several times.

the open-air museum created by Pierre Viala in 1976 under the name of “Village des Bories”.

A dwelling with a silkworm-breeding facility, a sheep shelter-cum-byre, and a storehouse. Photo Credit

The village was inhabited until the second half of the 19th century. After that, it was abandoned and not in very good condition. The poet, writer, and comedian Pierre Viala bought the land and restored the huts between 1969 and 1976.

The restoration was a huge task as the land was overgrown with trees and bushes and the huts were damaged in the two earthquakes in Provence around the end of the 19th century. When it finished, the village got its new name, won an architectural award and now is an open-air museum.

Inside of the dwelling. Photo Credit

 

Some of the exhibits: light swing-ploughs (or ards) and a harrow

The inhabitants of the Bories Village were modest peasants, shepherds, and farmers who lived from agriculture. They were cultivating olives, cereals, almonds, blackberries, vines, herbs and truffles. In some of the huts there are traditional tools and pieces of furniture that give a vivid image of how people lived in them.

The huts in the Bories Village are arranged in seven groups, each having a specific function. Apart from family houses, there are also stables, barns, sheepfolds, grain lofts, bakehouses and silkworm factories, wine fermentation vat and henhouses, pig sties and goat shelters.

The villagers built the houses with simple tools and material using the dry stone technique. They gathered the stone that was already on the ground, and from the selected and cut stones, they built the structure, without using mortar, cement or other binders.

The large flat thick stones are placed one above the other and once the wall achieved certain height, large slabs were put on top of them to form a roof. The diameter of the house reduces, as the height of the building grows until a single point is secured.

The entrance of the store room. Photo Credit

 

A dry stone hut in Village des Bories. Photo Credit

The huts are usually round, although rectangular can also be found. They have a doorway and a small window. Some bories have a chimney, more than one room, and also bories with an upper floor are noticed. The floor is made by putting stone slabs on oak beams. The Village des Bories is the most remarkable and important site of its kind in the region.

It is a rare example of spontaneous architecture, with simple, rather unworldly shapes of dwellings. In 1977, the French Government classified the Village des Bories a historical monument.